St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, photo via
Academy Award nominee to film movie on Opus Dei founder

British film director Roland Joffe has been hired by members of Opus Dei to direct a film dramatizing the life of St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, the Spaniard who founded Opus Dei and has since been canonized by the Catholic Church, reports Thaddeus M. Baklinski,

Best know for two films produced in the 1980's that garnered him Academy Award nominations for Best Director - "The Killing Fields," about the Khmer Rouge's genocidal war in Cambodia, and "The Mission," about Jesuit missionaries in South America who try to defend the Guaraní Indian tribe from Portuguese slave traders - Joffe had faded from the public eye until approached by Heriberto Schoeffer. Schoeffer, an independent film producer in Los Angeles and member of Opus, hoped to produce a film in conjunction with Schoeffer that would reveal the true story of Opus Dei and its founder.

"All I wanted is for people to see a good side of him, because so many bad things are said about him and Opus Dei," Mr. Schoeffer told the NY Times, referring to misinformation generated by publicity from the 2003 novel by Dan Brown "The Da Vinci Code" which maligned the organization (See LSN coverage of The Da Vinci Code here)

The film, titled "There Be Dragons," is set during the Spanish Civil War and involves a young journalist's discovery of his father's connection with Escrivá during that brutal period in Spain's history.

Joffe had initially turned down the offer to direct the film but reconsidered after viewing a video of Escrivá in conversation with a Jewish girl who wanted to convert to Catholicism.

Intrigued by Escrivá's faith, his belief that everyone is called to holiness and that a person's ordinary work is the path to sanctity, Joffe said, "I was very interested in the idea of embarking on a piece of work that took religion seriously on its own terms and didn't play a game where one approached religion denying its validity."

Joffe described himself as a "wobbly agnostic" to the NY Times, but added that "I do believe that rigid atheism is a rather intellectually short-sighted position."

The film project is produced and financed in part by Opus Dei members and has enlisted an Opus Dei priest to consult on the set.

Rev. John Wauck, a professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, is the on-set adviser, but Joffe has said that he has been given complete creative control in directing the film.

In related news, Martin Scorsese, best known for his blasphemous film "The Last Temptation of Christ," is planning a movie about Japanese Christians martyred in the 17th century.

Drawing on the book "Chinmoku" (Silence), by the Catholic Japanese author Shusaku Endo, the film will deal with the Portuguese missionaries sent to evangelize the country at the beginning of the 17th century and the persecution and eventual martyrdom of both missionaries who defied the edict of expulsion of westerners, and Japanese who converted to Christianity.

Scorsese will film the movie in New Zealand and release it in 2010, according to the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun. Names of actors linked to the project include Daniel Day-Lewis, Gael García Bernal and Benicio Del Toro.

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Christian Telegraph